Growing up in church, advent meant a calendar with fun little doors to open and treats or pictures counting each day from the 1st until December 25th.
As an adult, I often consider marking the advent in a more meaningful way, but usually that thought reappears around December 10th—after it feels much too late to find a devotional for the season.
Fun Fact: Advent means “Coming” in Latin.
While history and various Christian denominations mark the advent in different ways, it boils down to this: use the four weeks before Christmas to prepare our hearts, remembering Jesus and His birth on earth as the real meaning for celebrating.
So here we are again, a new Christmas season, four days away from Christmas. And I’m thinking about advent. It’s not like I’ve neglected Jesus this past few weeks, but this holiday season has gotten a bit away from me. I even posted a PSA on Facebook the other day because we didn’t make it to sending out Christmas cards this year. (You too? It’s OK.) As I think about advent, I also start thinking about many of you, and how at least some of my online friends may join me in my holiday rowboat, wishing we had prepared our hearts just a little better in attentive celebration of Christ’s birth.
Perhaps the stress of hosting prep feels a bit much, or the busyness of the holiday has crept in the way. Maybe you’re preparing for guests to arrive and dreading some aspects of the impending family time. Wishing you had a few less loved ones to shop for because Christmas is Sunday and there’s still so much to do. Or buy. Or clean. Or plan.
No matter where you are in the baking, or working, or wrapping, I encourage you to join me in a 25-minute advent. This isn’t official or whatever, I made it up. But I figure if we feel nudges in our hearts to re-center our focus, thinking we can’t do it now because we should have started twenty-one days ago is the worst excuse ever. We can start now. We can prepare and remember. Building from here, this place, this moment. As long as we’re still breathing, there’s time to focus our hearts and affection on Jesus.
Ask Jesus to help you stay attentive to His voice and the blessing of His birth as you go about the rest of your holiday preparations. Use this time to thank Him for the sacrifice and humility of being born as a human baby to save us from our sins. Finally, ask Him to speak with you as you read through the Christmas story and to highlight a word or phrase—like a well-lit Christmas tree—that you may hold onto it throughout the next few days.
2. Read the Christmas story.
The birth of Jesus is recorded for us in Matthew 1:18–25 and in Luke 1:26–56 & Luke 2:1–21. I prefer Luke’s account because he includes more details, but feel free to read whichever one you like (or both). As you read, pay attention to the words. We’re not skimming or speed reading. Ponder elements you may not have considered before. Envision different aspects, like what it’d be like to
- Be a first time mom and have no place for your baby.
- Be pregnant and engaged.
- Be a shepherd—not a high-ranking position—and witness a multitude of angels.
- Hold the savior of the world in your hands.
Ask God to talk with you through this story, to apply a theme or word to your circumstance right here in this day and this holiday season.
3. Take a cue from Mary and treasure.
As I walked through my 25-minute advent, God called my attention to this verse:
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
As a mother, Mary faced circumstances no one else in human history will have to overcome. I picture her, holding her sweet baby Jesus, and pondering the prophecy about His purpose on earth. I imagine her storing away the words of Gabriel, and Elizabeth, and the shepherds retelling the angel’s celebrating. I want to emulate that treasuring and vulnerable consideration as I seek to understand the promises and provision of God.
Maybe your word or phrase is different from mine.
“Good news of great joy”
“save people from their sins”
“God with us”
“the glory of the Lord”
Whatever it may be, treasure and ponder it in your heart. Write it on a flash card. Create a reminder on your phone. Leave it written on a notepad on your nightstand so you can read it again each morning or leave sticky notes on the fridge as reminders while you cook.
Sure, it may have been great to start our advent adventure on December 1st like all the prepared people. But don’t count yourself out. Christmas day is still ahead of us, and someday, Jesus is coming back. Even with all the things left to do, and the things that just won’t get done, there’s still time to prepare our hearts in celebration of the greatest gift.
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord … Glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:10–11,14)
There’s still time for your 2016 advent.
Did you join the fun?